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De-Register the Liberals, Anyone?De-Register the Liberals, Anyone?

De-Register the Liberals, Anyone?

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Topics: Institutions, Law, Policy
De-Register the Liberals, Anyone? May 21, 2014  |  By Ray Pennings
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With tongue firmly in my cheek, I want to propose that all tolerant, open-minded Canadians join me in my quest to de-register the Liberal Party of Canada. I don't propose we do this lightly. But just as various law societies are deciding (after carefully considering the arguments made, of course) that the integrity of public institutions requires them to serve the full expression of constitutionally protected rights or else be disqualified, I would urge a similar examination be made of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The case is quite straightforward, actually. There are some Canadians who believe for theological reasons that human life begins at conception. This view is certainly a view that warrants Charter protection under the freedom of religion clause. The Liberal Party of Canada, in their desire to "vote as one" in Canada's House of Commons regarding the contentious issue of abortion, has decided to implement a leader-enforced community covenant in which candidates pledge to vote pro-choice on any abortion-related vote. The consequence is indisputable: if full participation in a public institution for all constitutionally protected groups is a prerequisite for that organization to be accredited, then the logical consequence is that the Liberal Party needs to be de-registered.

In making my case, I would like to call as my first witness Victoria criminal lawyer Michael Mulligan. He is making news these days for having successfully launched a challenge to an institution whose community covenant would not allow the full participation of every member of society.

"It just sits wrong with me ... It strikes me as a matter of principle that this is wrong and not in the interests of our profession ... Is approving an institution that has discrimination as a core value, is that likely to be of value to the profession? I think the answer to that question is no."

The Liberal Party defense has been that it is necessary for the Party, in making their commitment to Canadians regarding a political policy that is a key part of their platform, to demonstrate their seriousness about their values by requiring everyone who runs for the party to commit to living by the candidate community covenant. Mr. Trudeau has signaled his particular understanding of leadership that requires this policy to be enforced. He assures those who disagree that "I believe firmly in your right to hold your views, and that under my leadership there will always be a place for you in the Liberal Party of Canada."

That defense, however, when offered in the most immediate precedent we have regarding a conflict between individual Charter values and a group's right to enforce a community covenant, has been deemed inadequate. When Trinity Western University argued that anyone (including gays) is free to participate in the affairs of the institution, provided they don't act in conflict with the community covenant they have voluntarily signed when applying, the response was that this wasn't good enough. The fact that there are other law schools (and political parties) that have either no community covenant, or a different one, to which applicants can apply also isn't deemed good enough. An institution that does not allow for the full participation of every Canadian who is living out their full, constitutionally protected identity is an institution that should not be recognized.

And so, I wonder, is there still enough time to add this to the agenda of the June 10th special meeting of the BC Law Society? I understand that they are considering the impact of having those eligible to serve as society's leaders bind themselves to a community covenant. Do you think we might just be able to save a bit of time here, and make a two-for-one decision?

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